Date of Award

Spring 2016

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Cheryl A Whistler

Second Advisor

Stephen H Jones

Third Advisor

Jeffrey T Foster


Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a human pathogenic bacterium, is a naturally occurring member of the microbiome of the Eastern oyster. As the nature of this symbiosis in unknown, the oyster presents the opportunity to investigate how microbial communities interact with a host as part of the ecology of an emergent pathogen of importance. To define how members of the oyster bacterial microbiome correlate with V. parahaemolyticus, I performed marker-based metagenetic sequencing analyses to identify and quantify the bacterial community in individual oysters after culturally-quantifying V. parahaemolyticus abundance. I concluded that despite shared environmental exposures, individual oysters from the same collection site varied both in microbiome community and V. parahaemolyticus abundance, and there may be an interaction with V. parahaemolyticus and Bacillus species. In addition, to elucidate the ecological origins of pathogenic New England ST36 populations, I performed whole genome sequencing and phylogenetic analyses. I concluded ST36 strains formed distinct subpopulations that correlated both with geographic region and unique phage content that can be used as a biomarker for more refined strain traceback. Furthermore, these subpopulations indicated there may have been multiple invasions of this non-native pathogen into the Atlantic coast.